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Doctors prepare for flu season that could see more cases than last year

After a year in which flu cases were way down, doctors are expecting those cases to jump back up this year.

MIDLAND, Texas — Flu season usually runs from October to March each year. With October here, flu shots are now available, and they are something that doctors recommend people get. 

Last year, there were very few flu cases, but doctors are preparing for more this year.

"We do anticipate higher flu incidents this season than we had last year, strictly because of the decrease in masking, the decreased mitigation efforts of cleaning our environmental surfaces," Val Sparks, infection preventionist at Midland Memorial Hospital, said.

However, it's been a little more difficult for doctors to determine what strains of the flu could be more prominent this year than in previous years.

"Normally the CDC in the U.S. gets what strains of the influenza virus are circulating in South America," Sparks said. "However, we didn’t see much flu in South America the past six months, so it’s kind of a ballpark guess as to why they picked what specific viruses are in our flu vaccine this year."

One of the concerns that comes with the flu is potentially having to deal with pneumonia as well.

"I think the max I’ve had is up to 16 flu cases hospitalized with pneumonia at one time during the flu season, and it absolutely can lead to respiratory distress and death generally in the older or immunocompromised individuals," Sparks said.

With COVID-19 still circulating, contracting both the flu and COVID-19 can prove to be dangerous as well.

"The risk is high for both, and if you got both viruses, it’s tough to treat both of them," Sparks said. "There are antivirals of course, then that leads to other bacterial infections and potentially respiratory distress, which could lead to death."

The vaccines in general offer about nine months of protection, although some can last for up to 11 or 15 months.